Last Sunday as I greeted worshipers on the steps of the church after worship (always one of the most pleasant moments of each week), I admired the Sunday morning artwork of a 5-year-old girl who had been in church that day. One hand holding onto her mother, her other hand clutched a piece of paper on which she had vividly colored one of the Bible stories.
She had employed every color in the box, disregarding the lines in an inspiring display of self-expression. It was a striking work of art that is likely proudly displayed on the family refrigerator.
As mother and daughter descended the steps onto the street level, they would have noticed a very different kind of "art" that had recently been added to the wall of the church nursery building where sometime last week some would-be messenger had spray-painted a very predictable, uncreative graffiti scribbling in two ugly colors.
What struck me about those two very different images was that parents and grandparents bring their children to the church nursery, to Sunday school and to church in the hopes that they don't grow up to spray graffiti on the sides of public or private property.
To be sure there is a place in our society -- a well-respected place -- for public protest. To be Christian is to be at times prophetic and counter-cultural, and there are times when one must stand against the crowd in a courageous act of faith. But the cowardly act of defacing somebody else's building does not rise to the level of prophetic message or meaningful conversation. It is simply costly, ugly, nihilistic vandalism.
I would not try to fathom the motives of those who insist on the marking their territory with cans of spray paint and obscure symbols. From railroad cars to the retaining walls on interstate highways, from public and private buildings to public restroom facilities, these messengers of the dark leave obscure signs that Kilroy was here.
But the contrast could not be clearer: Instead of spray paint on public places, those in the faith community start their children out with crayons and images that point to the Kingdom of God and the values of this Kingdom do not include self-serving personal expression, no matter how satisfying it may be to the offender.
And so I extend an invitation to all who find some kind of smug satisfaction by splattering your silly scribbling in public places. Why not find a church somewhere and find out what goes on inside the walls instead of spraying the outside of the walls? Though you are undoubtedly too old to attend children's church and most churches won't have cans of spray paint on hand to keep you occupied, I suspect most congregations would be happy to rustle up some construction paper and crayons for you if you want to leave a message.
Contact the Rev. Creede Hinshaw at Wesley Monumental United Methodist Church in Savannah at firstname.lastname@example.org.